Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
December, 2008
Regional Report

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Harvest only outer leaves so inner leaves continue growing for months-long harvests

Low-Key Mid-Winter Gardening

The sun's light and warmth slip to the year's low ebb this month. During warm spells, however, some seeds will germinate, so sowing under protected conditions is worth the effort. These seedlings can fill gaps in the winter garden and continue harvests into early spring. But, plants will grow very slowly, so sow or transplant three or four times the amount you would in the spring. Even with the potential that they'll bolt (go to seed) with spring warmth, we can count on greens to give us at least a couple of months' worth of salads and stir-fries. Besides, it's so much nicer having the greens growing in our gardens that we'll eat, rather than weeds that we'll have to pull!

Sow chard, kale, leeks, bibb and buttercrunch and romaine lettuces, mustards, green and bulb onions, flat-leaf parsley, peas, radishes, and savoy-leafed spinaches. Sprinkle to moisten the soil just enough to settle the seeds in.

To help concentrate daytime warmth and increase germination, cover the seedbed with clear plastic sheeting. Anchor down the edges with soil or rocks to keep out slugs and others who love the succulent sprouts, and to keep the sheeting from blowing away.

Planning for Frost Protection
During cold weather, plant and tree roots are not very efficient in transferring moisture throughout the foliage, so be sure that they get water but aren't waterlogged. Plants that are stressed from lack of irrigation are more susceptible to frost damage.

Protect citrus from cold damage by wrapping the tree trunks in newspaper and covering the foliage with plastic sheeting. Cold soil and dry winds can cause the rinds of ripening fruit to develop bleached blotches, and leaves to turn yellow where the sun strikes.

Provide temporary light shade or plastic sheeting to protect the southwest side of the plant from chilling winds. Be sure it doesn't touch the foliage, as this may increase frost damage.

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